* PV mkt size could reach 21.15 gigawatts in 2011- EPIA
* U.S. market to add 1.5-3 gigawatts in 2011 - EPIA
* Germany, Italy to install 3-5 gigawatts this year - EPIA
FRANKFURT, May 4 (Reuters) - The global solar market is set to continue it strong growth in 2011, the world’s biggest solar industry body said, but cautioned a decline could not be ruled out should political support for the industry fade.
Under an optimistic scenario, the global photovoltaic (PV) market could reach 21.145 gigawatts (GW) in new capacity this year, up 27 percent from 2010 installations, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) said.
EPIA usually provides an estimate range based on what it calls a “moderate” scenario and a “policy-driven” scenario, depending on the degree of political support.
“The Policy-Driven scenario proved to be the most accurate one over the past years. However, a market stagnation or even a small decrease in 2011 is not impossible,” EPIA said in its global market outlook published on Wednesday.
The moderate scenario pencils in new installations of 13.330 GW this year, which would equal a 20 percent decline from the record 16.629 GW added in 2010.
Graphic on EPIA’s growth estimates through 2015:
Brussels-based EPIA’s more than 240 members include U.S.-based First Solar, the world’s largest solar company by market value, Germany’s No.1 solar company SMA Solar (S92G.DE) and China’s Suntech Power Holdings STP.N, the world’s biggest maker of solar cells.
EPIA said that the nuclear crisis in Japan had triggered a new debate about renewable sources of energy.
“In this context, PV is more than ever part of a global renewable solution,” it added. EPIA said that Germany and Italy, the industry’s two largest markets, could each grow by 3-5 GW this year, while the U.S.-market is expected to add 1.5-3 GW.
Total installed PV capacity could more than triple to 195.945 GW by 2015, up from an expected 60.79 GW this year, driven by strong political support for the industry.
Reporting by Christoph Steitz